the Annotated Popular Edition of







Part the First

by Christopher Marlowe

c. 1586-7





Annotations and notes © copyright ElizabethanDrama.org, 2017.

This annotated play may be freely copied and distributed.





Tamburlaine, a Scythian Shepherd.

     Christopher Marlowe's play, Tamburlaine the Great, Part One, was the explosion that ignited the fabulous era of Elizabethan drama. The story is simple: a shepherd-turned-warrior meets and defeats every army he challenges, and in the process builds an enormous, if short-lived, empire. Tamburlaine's success is achieved with a streak of cruelty matching those of the worst villains in history. In addition, the strict iambic pentameter is mesmerizing, allowing you to race through speeches at a pace that will leave you breath-less.

     Techelles, his follower.

     Usumcasane, his follower.

The Persians:

Mycetes, King of Persia.

     Cosroe, his Brother.

Persian Lords and Captains:






     The text of the play is taken from the Mermaid edition


of the plays of Christopher Marlowe, edited by Havelock

Ellis, and cited in the footnotes below at #7.

Other Nations' Leaders:


Bajazeth, Emperor of the Turks.

     Zabina, Wife of Bajazeth.

     References in the annotations to Cunningham, Dyce, Schelling and Ribner refer to the notes supplied by these editors for Tamburlaine the Great, 1st Part, in their individual collections of Marlowe's work, each volume cited fully below.

     The most commonly cited sources are listed in the footnotes immediately below. The complete list of footnotes appears at the end of this play.


     Footnotes in the text correspond as follows:


     1. Oxford English Dictionary (OED) online.

     2. Crystal, David and Ben. Shakespeare's Words. London; New York: Penguin, 2002.

     3. Cunningham, Lt. Col. Francis. The Works of Christopher Marlowe. London: Chatto and Windus, 1879.

     4. Collier, John Payne. The History of English Dramatic Poetry. London: George Bell and Sons, 1879.

     5. Dyce, Alexander. The Works of Christopher Marlowe. London: George Routledge and Sons, 1876.

     6. Schelling, Felix E. Christopher Marlowe. New York: American Book Company, 1912.

     7. Ellis, Havelock, ed. The Best Plays of the Old Dramatists: Christopher Marlowe. London: Viztelly & Co., 1887.

     8. The Encyclopedia Britannica. 11th edition. New York: 1911.

     9. Ribner, Irving. The Complete Plays of Christopher Marlowe. New York: The Odyssey Press, 1963.

     11. Bartlett, W.B. The Mongols, From Genghis Kahn to Tamerlane. Gloucestershire: Amberley Publishing, 2009.

     14. Murray, Alexander. Who's Who in Ancient Mythology. New York: Crescent Books, 1988.

     19. Smith, W., ed. A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. London: John Murray, 1849.

     22. Humphries, Rolfe, trans. Ovid. Metamorphoses. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1983.

     25. Gordon G. et al. Dictionarium Britannicum. London: the Lamb, 1730.

          Ebea, her Maid.

King of Arabia.

King of Fez.

King of Morocco.

King of Argier (Algiers).

Soldan of Egypt.

     Zenocrate, Daughter of the Soldan of Egypt.

          Anippe, her Maid.

     Capolin, an Egyptian Captain.

Governor of Damascus.

Median Lords:



Philemus, a Messenger.

Virgins of Damascus.

Messengers, Soldiers, etc.


Brief Notes on Tamburlaine, Part One.

A. Note on the Real Tamburlaine.

     The original Tamburlaine's real name was Timur. He was born in 1336 in Kesh, the modern city of Shahrisabz in the modern country of Uzbekistan, in the region of Asia known as Transoxiana.

     Timur's father was the head of a clan known as the Berlas, which seems to have converted to Islam in the years prior to Timur's birth. Given a typical tribal leader's education - lots of outdoor exercise - Timur began his military career by leading regiment-sized cavalry and conquering neighboring tribes. By 1369, his father having died and his brother assassinated, Timur was proclaimed sovereign.

    Timur spent the 1370's consolidating his rule east of the Caspian Sea. In the 1380's and 1390's he broke the back of the Golden Horde, the Mongol faction that ruled Russia, and conquered Persia. During this period, Timur's international reputation for cruelty reached its zenith, as he was known to destroy any city that failed to submit to, or rebelled against, him, and slaughter all of its inhabitants.

     In 1398, Timur turned his attention east, crossing the Indus River, easily winning another battle and sacking Delhi.

     Timur's last campaign - he was now well into his sixties - was comprised of an invasion of Anatolia and Syria. He destroyed Damascus and many other cities in the Levant, as well as Baghdad, before routing the Ottoman army at the Battle of Angora (modern Ankara) in 1402, capturing the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I in the process.

     While planning his next campaign, into China, Timur died on February 17, 1405, at Otrar in modern Kazakhstan. He had built an empire covering an area greater than that of all of western and central Europe.

     Timur ranks with Attila the Great and Genghis Kahn as one of the most destructive ravagers of civilization and exterminators of human beings in history. While all demographic statistics regarding the ancient world can only be educated guesses at best, it has been estimated that 7-20 million people died due to his wars.30

     In the modern city of Samarkand in Uzbekistan stands the Gur Emir, a magnificent mausoleum in which Timur and his descendants are entombed.

Information in this note was adapted from an article in the Encyclopedia Britannica of 1911.

B. Why the Name Tamburlaine?

     By tradition, Timur was said to be significantly disabled, having a withered right arm (or he may have simply lost two fingers) and a crippled right leg, thanks to injuries received in a skirmish in his youth. In Turkish he was known as Timur I Leng - Timur the Lame - which was corrupted into the modern Tamerlane, or Tamburlaine (Bartlett, pp. 236-7).11

     We may note that Timur was referred to as "the lame" only by his enemies, and not his friends.

     In 1941, Russian archeologists opened Timur's tomb, confirming the existence of his injuries.31 That Timur was able to successfully command armies and rule nations for almost half a century with these physical impairments makes him all the more astonishing, if not particularly admirable.

C. Why Marlowe's History is Mostly Wrong.

     What are considered the more reliable biographies of Timur were not yet available in the west when Christopher Marlowe wrote his play.

     So what were Marlowe's sources?

     (1) Marlowe's primary source was a major Spanish work, Sylva de varia Lecion, by Pedro Mexia. The book was translated into English in 1571 as The Foreste, or a Collection of Histories, by Thomas Fortescue. Part II, chapter 14, tells the history of "the renouned and greate Tamberlaine". Apparently Mexio himself complained about the fragmentary nature of his own sources, "scarce lendying you any shewe of his conquirous exploytes, the same only confusely, and without any order".

     (2) A work by the Italian Pietro Perondini, Magni Tamerlanis Scytharvm Imperatoris Vita (The Life of Tamerlane the Great Scythian Emperor) provided Marlowe with additional details.

Information in this note was adapted from Leslie Spence's article in Modern Philology, The Influence of Marlowe's Sources on "Tamburlaine I" (1926).32

D. A Dull But Important Note on

Marlowe's Geography in Tamburlaine, Part One.

     In this note we will briefly describe the geography of western Asia as it really was in the late 14th century, the period of time during which Timur was beginning to expand his empire; comments about Marlowe's accuracy (or lack thereof) are also included.

     (1) Starting in the far west, Asia Minor was under the control of the Ottoman Turks, who were in the very slow process of appropriating the territory of the entire Byzantine Empire for themselves. In fact, they had already taken over land on the European side of the Bosporus, leaving the Byzantines with little outside of Constantinople itself.

     Marlowe's Ottomans are correctly in Anatolia, although at one point he seems to situate the Turkish army at some vague point between Persia and Syria.

     (2) Syria was under the rule of the Egyptians, as it had been for centuries. Egypt itself was led by a Sultan.

     Marlowe is correct regarding the big picture here; however, Tamburlaine is portrayed by the playwright as falling in love with (and eventually marrying) the Egyptian Sultan's daughter; the real Sultan at the time was only about 14 years old at the time Timur invaded the Levant, hardly old enough to have a fully grown daughter.

     (3) Bordering Syria to the East was the land historically known as Persia, encompassing roughly what today are the northern part of Iraq and all of Iran. Persia until recently had been ruled as an independent empire, known as the Ilkhanate, by a sub-group of Mongols whose leader was titled "Ilkahn". However, this empire had broken up by 1340, and Persia was split into numerous petty kingdoms - which had no chance against the powerful armies of Timur.

     Marlowe portrays the Persian Empire as whole and governed by a king, with a ruling class probably intended to be ethnic Persians, rather than Mongols; the characters themselves look back on ancient Persian rulers such as Cyrus the Great as their heroes.

     (4) Governing the lands north of the Black and Caspian Seas, and thus comprising much of modern western Russia, was another group of Mongols, who have come down to us by the name of the Golden Horde.

     Marlowe ignores the existence of the Golden Horde, and imagines the vast region north of Persia as still belonging to the ancient and still-vaguely understood people known to history as the Scythians. Marlowe portrays Tamburlaine as coming from this area, and thus not necessarily of Mongol stock, as he was.

E. Further Fiction Regarding Timur in Part One.

     In Marlowe's play, Tamburlaine is still in the prime of his life as he takes on the Egyptians and Ottomans, when in reality he was well into his sixties at the time.

     Marlowe's Tamburlaine also falls in love with and marries but one woman; the real Timur married many women, and fathered numerous children by them.




F. Marlowe's Cartological Source:

the Ortelius Maps.

     Commentators have long recognized that Marlowe, while writing the Tamburlaine plays, had at his disposal the maps of the great 16th century geographer, Antwerp native Abraham Ortelius (1527-1598). Ortelius had published his Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, the world's first atlas, containing 53 maps of the world, in 1570. Three years later, a supplementary work was released containing an additional 17 maps. The maps were generally not original with Ortelius, and he properly gave credit where it was due.

     The maps are colorful and detailed, and quite beautiful, if somewhat fanciful and even joyously inaccurate.

     Marlowe borrowed exotic sounding place names extensively from the maps as he wrote the Tamburlaine plays, especially for Part Two. Our annotations will regularly note where the many locations (most of which have no connection to any modern place names) mentioned in the plays appear on the Ortelius maps, and you may even wish to consult reproductions of the maps on the internet as you read the plays.









Part the First






By Christopher Marlowe






c. 1586-7












Editor's Suggestion: to get the best sense of the Prologue, we suggest you read it one time through, then read the annotation at the end of the Prologue (line 8), then read the Prologue again!


From jigging veins of rhyming mother wits,

1: the sense is, "Away from the frivolous verse-making of
     those writers with natural wit and a bent for rhyming..."
         jigging = Schelling suggests "the making of merry or
     satirical verses."6
         mother wits = those with native wit or intellect, likely
     meant ironically.1


And such conceits as clownage keeps in pay,

2: ie. "and similar ideas (conceits) that keep those engaged
     in such buffoonery (clownage) employed..."

We'll lead you to the stately tent of war,


Where you shall hear the Scythian Tamburlaine

Threatening the world with high astounding terms,

= language.


And scourging kingdoms with his conquering sword.

View but his picture in this tragic glass,

= looking glass or magic mirror.1


And then applaud his fortune as you please.

1-8: The Prologue: the Prologue of Tamburlaine the Great
     has been interpreted by early editors as Marlowe's call to
     arms against both the use of rhyming in drama, and 
     the employment of drama to expound on low-bred themes
     and characters. Marlowe could not have imagined the
     degree to which his exhortation succeeded.




Scene Settings: please note, settings are not included in any of the referenced editions of Tamburlaine the Great; all scene settings in this edition are the editor's own suggestions - as always, done with the goal of making the play easier for the reader to follow.

Enter Mycetes, Cosroe, Meander, Theridamas,

Entering Characters: Mycetes is the King of Persia;

Ortygius, Ceneus, Menaphon, with others.

     Cosroe is his brother. The remaining gentlemen are all
     Persian lords and war chiefs.


Myc.  Brother Cosroe, I find myself aggrieved,

1: the play opens with the Persian king Mycetes, a weak
     man, unable to find the words to describe the cause of
     his anguish. Cosroe is pronounced with the stress on
     the second syllable: cos-ROE.


Yet insufficient to express the same;

For it requires a great and thundering speech:


Good brother, tell the cause unto my lords;

I know you have a better wit than I.

= ability to speak cleverly.1


Cos.  Unhappy Persia, that in former age

7f: Cosroe ignores his brother's direction, and instead
     brazenly complains of Mycetes' unfitness to rule.


Hast been the seat of mighty conquerors,

That, in their prowess and their policies,

= statesmanship.2


Have triumphed over Afric and the bounds

Of Europe, where the sun scarce dares appear


For freezing meteors and congealèd cold,

12: freezing meteors = ie. snow and ice; meteors formerly
was used to describe atmospheric conditions in general.1
     congealed = frozen.1

Now to be ruled and governed by a man


At whose birthday Cynthia with Saturn joined,

14-16: Cosroe conveys the traditional view of astrology, in which the location of the planets at the time of one's birth determines one's fate and personality. When Cynthia (the personified Moon) is in conjunction with Saturn (that is, located in the same sign of the zodiac) when one is born, the result will be a melancholic temperament.33
     Cosroe rues the fact that different planets were not in position to have a positive influence on Mycetes at his birth. Jupiter (Jove) would have made him "magnanimous...doing Glorious things": the Sun would have given him "incomparable Judgment, of great Majesty and Statelinesse", and grant him the ability to "speak with gravity...and with great confidence"; and, Mercury would bestow on him "much elegance in his speech", making him "sharp and witty".33

And Jove, the Sun, and Mercury denied


To shed their influence in his fickle brain!

= unreliable.1

Now Turks and Tartars shake their swords at thee,

17: Tartars = Ribner notes that Marlowe uses Tartar


Meaning to mangle all thy provinces.

     interchangeably with Scythian (p. 54).9
         In writing the Tamburlaine plays, Marlowe made
     extensive use of a collection of colourful, if generally
     inaccurate, maps of the world, gathered by the Antwerp
     geographer Abraham Ortelius (1527-1598) and published
     in 1570. On Ortelius' map of the full known world, the
     area labeled Tartaria is an extensive region, about the
     size of Europe, located to the north of the Black Sea.
         In line 17, Cosroe refers to the Ottoman Turks and the
     Scythian band led by Tamburlaine, both of whom are
     posing a threat to the peace of Persia.


Myc.  Brother, I see your meaning well enough,

And through your planets I perceive you think


I am not wise enough to be a king;

But I refer me to my noblemen


That know my wit, and can be witnesses.

= intelligence.

I might command you to be slain for this:

25-26: as king, Mycetes holds the lives of all of his


Meander, might I not?

     subjects in his hands.


Meand.  Not for so small a fault, my sovereign lord.


Myc.  I mean it not, but yet I know I might;

Yet live; yea live, Mycetes wills it so.

= with four exceptions - Tamburlaine, Menaphon, Bajazeth and Capolin - all the names in the play are pronounced with the stress on the second syllable; the above four names begin with a stressed syllable.


Meander, thou, my faithful counselor,

Declare the cause of my conceivèd grief,

= explain.1


Which is, God knows, about that Tamburlaine,

That, like a fox in midst of harvest time,


Doth prey upon my flocks of passengers;

= ie. travellers (passengers) within Persia; flocks, with

And, as I hear, doth mean to pull my plumes:

     plumes in line 37, brings together a metaphor of the
     chickens or other poultry a fox (line 35) might try to
     snare while the members of the household are away
     gathering the harvest.
         To pull one's plumes also suggests a tearing down
     of one's pride.


Therefore ’tis good and meet for to be wise.

= fitting.


Meand.  Oft have I heard your majesty complain

Of Tamburlaine, that sturdy Scythian thief,

= Tamburlaine is portrayed as coming from Scythia, an
     ancient land vaguely conceived to be situated on the
     north side of the Black Sea, though with its northern and
     eastern limits undefined. The real Tamburlaine was born
     and raised further east in south-east modern Uzbekistan.


That robs your merchants of Persepolis

= the capital of the ancient Persian Empire of the 6th-4th
     centuries B.C., burned by Alexander the Great in 330. By
     Tamburlaine's time, Persepolis no longer existed, having
     been long surpassed by nearby Istakhr, which itself may
     have disappeared by the 14th century.8

Trading by land unto the Western Isles,

= Ribner believes the Western Isles refers to Britain (p. 53).9


And in your confines with his lawless train

= "within your borders".  = entourage.

Daily commits incivil outrages,

= barbarous.5


Hoping (misled by dreaming prophecies)

To reign in Asia, and with barbarous arms

= while Asia here is pronounced as a two-syllable word,
     often it will be tri-syllabic, with the final -a providing an
     extra terminating beat. In these cases it will be written as
     Asiä (the same may be said about Persia / Persiä).
         The two dots above a vowel, called a diaeresis,
     indicate that consecutive vowels should be pronounced
     as separate syllables; a common example in English is the
     word naïve, pronounced with two syllables: na-eeve.


To make himself the monarch of the East;

But ere he march in Asia, or display


His vagrant ensign in the Persian fields,

= nomadic or itinerant standards or banners.1

Your grace hath taken order by Theridamas,


Charged with a thousand horse, to apprehend

= ie. cavalry.

And bring him captive to your highness' throne.


Myc.  Full true thou speak'st, and like thyself, my lord,

= as king, Mycetes addresses his subjects as "thou",
     signifying his superior rank; Mycetes is in turn
     addressed with the formal and deferential "you".


Whom I may term a Damon for thy love:

= the Greek Damon and his pal Pythias were proverbial
     for true friendship. Having been sentenced to death for
     plotting to kill the tyrant Dionysius, Pythias asked for
     permission to go home first to settle his affairs. Dionysius
     assented, but on the condition that another man
     volunteer to take his place for execution should he not
     return. Damon famously offered himself as surety for his
     friend. Dionysius was even more surprised when Pythias
     actually returned to spare Damon. Impressed by this
     display of perfect love between the two men, the tyrant
     pardoned them both.

Therefore ’tis best, if so it like you all,

= pleases.


To send my thousand horse incontinent

= immediately.5

To apprehend that paltry Scythian.


How like you this, my honourable lords?

60-61: Mycetes reveals his weakness with these questions;
     a true leader would have no need to seek validation
     from his subjects.

Is't not a kingly resolutiön?

= resolution has 5 syllables here; the ö injects an extra
     syllable, common in Elizabethan verse: re-so-lu-shee-on.


Cos.  It cannot choose, because it comes from you.


Myc.  Then hear thy charge, valiant Theridamas,

= orders.


The chiefest captain of Mycetes' host,

= army.

The hope of Persia, and the very legs


Whereon our state doth lean as on a staff,

That holds us up, and foils our neighbour foes:

= defeats or frustrates.2


Thou shalt be leader of this thousand horse,

Whose foaming gall with rage and high disdain

= the foaming gall belongs to either the cavalrymen or


Have sworn the death of wicked Tamburlaine.

     Theridamas; foaming suggests extreme wrath on the
     part of the soldiers, though the word could also apply
     literally to the horses.
         Gall refers to a spirit of bitterness, whose supposed
     source was the secretion, called gall, of the liver.
         Finally, note that a rhyming couplet (lines 71-72)
     seems to have snuck into the verse.

Go frowning forth; but come thou smiling home,


As did Sir Paris with the Grecian dame;

74: a reference to the Trojan prince Paris, who returned from a trip to Sparta in Greece accompanied by Helen, the wife of the Spartan king Menelaus, precipitating the Trojan War.

Return with speed − time passeth swift away;


Our life is frail, and we may die to-day.


Ther.  Before the moon renew her borrowed light,

Doubt not, my lord and gracious sovereign,

= sovereign is tri-syllabic here.


But Tamburlaine and that Tartarian rout

= crew or gang.5

Shall either perish by our warlike hands,


Or plead for mercy at your highness' feet.


Myc.  Go, stout Theridamas, thy words are swords,

= valiant.  = word play was probably intended, with words and swords sounding more alike in the 16th century than they do today.

And with thy looks thou conquerest all thy foes;


I long to see thee back return from thence,

= technically redundant, though commonly used, phrase;

That I may view these milk-white steeds of mine

     thence alone means "from there".


All loaden with the heads of killèd men,

And from their knees e'en to their hoofs below


Besmeared with blood that makes a dainty show.

89-90: despite Marlowe's protestation in the Prologue, he has written in another rhyming couplet here. In most of the Elizabethan drama that succeeded Marlowe, a rhyming couplet will generally, and irregularly, only appear as (1) the last two lines of a scene or act, or (2) less frequently, the last two lines spoken by a character to signal the end of his or her part in a particular scene.
     There are a number of such rhyming lapses by Marlowe in this play; rather than point them out each time they occur, we will give you the opportunity to catch them on your own; for completeness sake, here is a list of the future rhyming couplets in this play (there may be ones that I missed):
     Act I, i, 125-6 (essentially Mycetes' last lines in the scene); I, ii, 308-310 (three rhyming lines!);
     Act II, v, 54-55 (maybe); II, vi, 24-25;
     Act III, iii, 194-5 (Tamburlaine's last lines in the scene); III, iii, 240 (a rhyme within a single line);
     Act IV, iii, 65-66 (the King of Arabia's last lines in the scene);
     Act V, i, 33-34; 176-8 (again, three rhyming lines); V, i, 432-3; 514-5 (the King of Arabia's last lines in the scene); 524-5; and lastly at V, i, 634-5, the final lines of the play.


Ther.  Then now, my lord, I humbly take my leave.


Myc.  Theridamas, farewell! ten thousand times.


[Exit Theridamas.]


Ah, Menaphon, why stay'st thou thus behind,

When other men press forward to renown?

= fame.


Go, Menaphon, go into Scythia;

And foot by foot follow Theridamas.


Cos.  Nay, pray you let him stay; a greater task

= please.


Fits Menaphon than warring with a thief:

Create him Prorex of all Africa,

= Viceroy or Deputy King.1  = throughout the play, Africa
     refers to northern Africa (corresponding to the location
     of ancient Rome's provinces), but also seems to include
     Syria, which was ruled at the time by the Egyptian


That he may win the Babylonians' hearts

106-8: Babylonia is in Persia, so why would Cosroe

Which will revolt from Persian government,

     suggest Menaphon be made Prorex of Africa, a land


Unless they have a wiser king than you.

     that is not part of their empire? Perhaps Cosroe is saying
     that Mycetes, by appointing the able Menaphon to be
     the Viceroy of some jurisdiction other than Persia, will
     cause the citizens of Persia proper to rise up against
     their own incompetent king out of jealousy. In other
     words, he is being absurd to add sting to his insults.


Myc.  "Unless they have a wiser king than you."

These are his words; Meander, set them down.

= "write this down", so that Cosroe's insult will not be


Cos.  And add this to them − that all Asiä


Laments to see the folly of their king.


Myc.  Well, here I swear by this my royal seat, −

= ie. "my throne"; it was common in Elizabethan drama to
     swear on inanimate objects.


Cos.  You may do well to kiss it then.

118: Cosroe, insultingly, suggests that Mycetes should kiss his throne just as he would kiss a Bible or some like holy object that he was swearing on. Marlowe may have had in mind an oath known as a corporal oath, in which a witness touched or held the gospels, the relics of a saint, or some object equally sanctified, when swearing his or her oath, and may at some point in the past have also kissed the object.10
     To a modern reader, Cosroe may appear to be taking seat to refer to Mycete's posterior, hence producing the English language's earliest version of "kissing one's a**". However, the OED's earliest citation of seat meaning "one's bottom" occurred in 1607, and the oldest example of "kissing one's a**" appeared in 1705.1


Myc.  Embossed with silk as best beseems my state,

120f: Mycetes ignores Cosroe's last comment.

To be revenged for these contemptuous words.


Oh, where is duty and allegiance now?

Fled to the Caspian or the Ocean main?


What shall I call thee? brother? − no, a foe;

Monster of nature! − Shame unto thy stock

= ancestors or family.


That dar'st presume thy sovereign for to mock!

= ie. "to mock thy sovereign"; a typically complex
     rearrangement of words to make them fit the meter of
     the line.

Meander, come: I am abused, Meander.


[Exeunt all but Cosroe and Menaphon.]


Men.  How now, my lord? What, mated and amazed

= "(are you) confused".5


To hear the king thus threaten like himself!


Cos.  Ah, Menaphon, I pass not for his threats;

= care not.5

The plot is laid by Persian noblemen


And captains of the Median garrisons

= Media comprises a large area of north-west Persia, located south of the Caspian Sea. This was the first region conquered by Cyrus the Great on his way to creating the earliest Persian empire in the 6th century B.C.

To crown me Emperor of Asiä:


But this it is that doth excruciate

The very substance of my vexèd soul −

= troubled.


To see our neighbours that were wont to quake

= accustomed.

And tremble at the Persian monarch's name,


Now sit and laugh our regiment to scorn;

= rule or authority.3

And that which might resolve me into tears,

143: "and what really might make me cry".
     resolve = old word meaning "dissolve".


Men from the farthest equinoctial line

144: Cosroe is basically referring to men from the farthest
     eastern reaches of Asia; equinoctial line generally is
     used to mean the equator,1 so the sense here seems to
     be "point on the equator", or even "longitude". The
     equator is equinoctial because when the sun passes
     through it (ie. at the equinox), the length of the day and
     night is equal.

Have swarmed in troops into the Eastern India,

= Eastern India refers to the land east of the Indus River.
         On Ortelius' map of the world, India Orientalis (ie.
     Eastern India) encompasses all of south-east Asia,
     including most of India (the Indus River forms India
western border), the southern half of China,
     and every country below it to the coast. The Ilkhanate -
     ie. the Persian Empire of the 14th century - had at its
     greatest extent a piece of western modern Pakistan under
     its control, but did not actually reach Eastern India.


Lading their ships with gold and precious stones,

146-7: Cosroe's point is that invaders from the far east,

And made their spoils from all our provinces.

     probably Mongols, are plundering areas under nominal
     Persian control along the empire's eastern frontier.


Men.  This should entreat your highness to rejoice,

= persuade.1


Since Fortune gives you opportunity

= Fortune is frequently personified.

To gain the title of a conqueror


By curing of this maimèd empery.

= wounded or crippled empire.

Afric and Europe bordering on your land,


And continent to your dominiöns,

= continuous with, connecting to.1

How easily may you, with a mighty host,

155-8: Menaphon flatters Cosroe: if he were king, he could
     begin to reclaim the greatness of the ancient Persian
     Empire by invading and capturing Asia Minor, as Cyrus
     the Great did in the 6th century B.C.


Pass into Grӕcia, as did Cyrus once,

= Graecia refers to western Asia Minor, which was 
     historically Greek in population. Cyrus never crossed
     into European Greece during his career.

And cause them to withdraw their forces home,

157-8: any Byzantine forces employed outside of Anatolia
     would be forced to unite therein to prevent the fall of
     Constantinople, its capital city, to Cosroe.


Lest you subdue the pride of Christendom.

= ie. Constantinople (Ribner, p. 55).9 As a historical matter,
     most of the Byzantine Empire by this time had been
     conquered by the Ottoman Turks; Constantinople was
     more or less all that remained of the empire. Menaphon,
     seems completely ignorant of, or at least unconcerned
     with, the Ottomans' success in this area.


[Trumpet within.]


Cos.  But, Menaphon, what means this trumpet's sound?


Men.   Behold, my lord, Ortygius and the rest

Bringing the crown to make you Emperor!


Enter Ortygius and Ceneus, with others,


bearing a crown.


Orty.   Magnificent and mighty Prince Cosroe,

We, in the name of other Persian states

= noblemen.5


And commons of the mighty monarchy,

= the general population, ie. everybody who is not noble.

Present thee with th' imperial diadem.


Cen.   The warlike soldiers and the gentlemen,

175-182: Ceneus describes what will become a common motif in Elizabethan drama: in times of peace, a country's soldiers become soft and undisciplined.


That heretofore have filled Persepolis

With Afric captains taken in the field,

= commanders.  = ie. captured in battle.


Whose ransom made them march in coats of gold,

= ie. Persia's soldiers.

With costly jewèls hanging at their ears,


And shining stones upon their lofty crests,

= a crest is a three-dimensional heraldic device, such as an eagle or fan, worn on the top of one's helmet, usually for ceremonies and tournaments.1

Now living idle in the wallèd towns,


Wanting both pay and martial discipline,

= lacking.

Begin in troops to threaten civil war,


And openly exclaim against their king:

Therefore, to stop all sudden mutinies,


We will invest your highness Emperor,

Whereat the soldiers will conceive more joy


Than did the Macedonians at the spoil

188-9: a reference to Alexander the Great's victories over

Of great Darius and his wealthy host.

King Darius III that destroyed the Persian Achaemenid Empire around 330 B.C. Alexander's army famously captured Darius' baggage train and even his family at the Battle of Issus in 333 B.C.
     It is perhaps incongruous for Ceneus to so breezily use this greatest of Persian historical disasters as a point of comparison.


Cos.  Well, since I see the state of Persia droop


And languish in my brother's government,

I willingly receive th' imperial crown,


And vow to wear it for my country's good,

In spite of them shall malice my estate.

195: shall malice = "who bear malice towards"; malice was commonly used as a transitive verb from the mid-16th through the early 17th century.
     estate = situation or standing.


Orty.  And in assurance of desired success,


We here do crown thee monarch of the East,

Emperor of Asiä and Persiä;


Great Lord of Media and Armenia;

200: Media is disyllabic here, with the stress on the first
     syllable; Armenia has four syllables.

Duke of Africa and Albania,

= Albania is a small region between the Black and Caspian


Mesopotamia and of Parthia,

202: Mesopotamia = the land between the Euphrates and
     Tigris Rivers in modern Iraq. 
          Parthia = while the earlier Parthian Empire comprised
     much of the same area as did the Persian Empire, Parthia
     here refers to a smaller district in north-eastern Iran.

East India and the late-discovered isles;

= Ribner posits an allusion to the recently-discovered
     Americas here (p. 56).9 Such a reference would of course
     be anachronistic to the 14th century Persians. Later
     Elizabethan dramatists made occasional allusions to the
     English colonies in the western hemisphere, but these
     did not come into existence until after Marlowe's time
     (Jamestown in Virginia in 1607, Plymouth colony in
     Massachusetts in 1620).


Chief Lord of all the wide, vast Euxine sea,

= ie. Black Sea.

And of the ever-raging Caspian lake.


All.  Long live Cosroë, mighty Emperor!

207: this line, along with four others, appears short or irregular, but all contain the name Cosroe in it: Marlowe likely considers Cosroe to be tri-syllabic in these lines (something like cos-RO-eh) which would in each case repair the meter. In these cases, Cosroe will appear as Cosroë.


Cos.  And Jove may never let me longer live

= read as "may Jove"; we may note here the frequent references to Greek gods and myths made by all the characters of the play; the 19th century editor Havelock Ellis commented, "Marlowe had very vague ideas respecting the Persian and Mahommedan religions. Tamburlaine often invokes Jove, and seems well versed in the Greek mythology" (Ellis, p. 11).7


Than I may seek to gratify your love,

And cause the soldiers that thus honour me


To triumph over many provinces!

By whose desire of discipline in arms


I doubt not shortly but to reign sole king,

And with the army of Theridamas,


(Whither we presently will fly, my lords)

= to where.

To rest secure against my brother's force.

= stand.


Orty.  We knew, my lord, before we brought the crown,


Intending your investiön so near

= investiture.3

The residence of your despisèd brother,


The lords would not be too exasperate

= enraged.1

To injury or suppress your worthy title;

= ie. injure; injury was occasionally used as a verb from
     the late 15th through the early 17th centuries.1


Or, if they would, there are in readiness

Ten thousand horse to carry you from hence,


In spite of all suspected enemies.

224-6: but just in case, an army is ready to whisk Cosroe away to safety should Mycetes' loyal adherents threaten him for accepting the crown.


Cos.  I know it well, my lord, and thank you all.


Orly.  Sound up the trumpets then.


[ Trumpets sound.]


All.  God save the King! 

234: is there not something charming about the Persians cheering their new sovereign with such an English acclamation?





Enter Tamburlaine leading Zenocrate, Techelles,

Entering Characters: Tamburlaine is of course our play's

Usumcasane, Agydas, Magnetes, Lords,

     hero; at this point he is nothing more than a bandit in

and Soldiers, laden with treasure.

     charge of a body of 500 marauders. Techelles and
     Usumcasane (who is frequently called simply Casane)
     are Tamburlaine's closest friends and commanders.
          Agydas and Magnetes are lords of Media; they have
     been accompanying and travelling with Zenocrate, the
     daughter of the Soldan (Sultan) of Egypt; the three of
     them are now prisoners of Tamburlaine.


Tamb.  Come, lady, let not this appal your thoughts;

= dismay.2


The jewèls and the treasure we have ta'en

Shall be reserved, and you in better state,

= "and you will be treated with greater honours" (Ribner,


Than if you were arrived in Syria,

     p. 56).9

Even in the circle of your father's arms,


The mighty Soldan of Ægyptia.

1-6: that Zenocrate and her baggage train of treasures were captured as she was travelling from Media in Persia to return to her father the Soldan of Egypt emphasizes the Persians' characterization of Tamburlaine as nothing more than a common gangster.


Zeno.  Ah, shepherd! pity my distressèd plight,

= this is the first of several references to Tamburlaine's
     humble beginnings as a Scythian shepherd. The real
     Tamburlaine was the son of a local Mongol chieftain
     in what is now Uzbekistan.

(If, as thou seem'st, thou art so mean a man,)

= base or lowly. Note that since she is a princess,
     Zenocrate uses "thou" to address a man she views
     as one of much lower status.


And seek not to enrich thy followers

By lawless rapine from a silly maid,

= plunder or robbery.1  = helpless, defenseless.1


Who travelling with these Median lords

To Memphis, from my uncle's country of Media,

= the ancient capital of Egypt. Note that the line, unusually,
     has 13 syllables; Dyce suggests it is corrupt.


Where all my youth I have been governèd,

14: Zenocrate's back-story was invented by Marlowe for
     no other reason than to explain her presence in Persia,
     where she could be taken prisoner by Tamburlaine.

Have passed the army of the mighty Turk,

15: Zenocrate's party somehow had to pass through the
     Turkish army, even though Persia and Syria (which
     comprised the northern portion of the Egyptian empire
     at this time) were contiguous. In reality, the Turks were
     presently engaged in their slow project of subjugating
     the Byzantine Empire in western Asia Minor and across
     the Bosporus into Greece.


Bearing his privy signet and his hand

16-17: ie. bearing a pass from the Turkish Sultan granting

To safe conduct us thorough Africa.

     protection as they travel: the document was written
     personally by the Sultan (his hand) and bears his
     official seal (privy signet); thorough = through.


Mag.  And since we have arrived in Scythia,

19-22: the exact sequence of events leading to Zenocrate's


Besides rich presents from the puissant Cham,

capture is not clear: we may reasonably have believed to

We have his highness' letters to command

this point that Zenocrate and her party had been travelling


Aid and assistance, if we stand in need.

in a straight line west from Persia to Egypt, and were picked up by Tamburlaine during one of his raids and brought back north to Scythia.
     Magnetes' speech, however, suggests another possibility, namely that the royal party rode north first to visit the leader of the Golden Horde, a Mongol sub-group which was ruling Russia at the time, before turning southwest to go home. Khan was a term used to describe a Mongol leader (puissant Cham = mighty khan), and in the play's geography, the khan of the Golden Horde would be the only Mongol candidate available.
     The areas controlled by the Golden Horde would have overlapped with the region understood to be Scythia north of the Black Sea.


Tamb.  But now you see these letters and commands

24-25: note the wordplay suggested by the repetition of 

Are countermanded by a greater man;

     the syllable man in these lines; the effect is one of


And through my provinces you must expect

Letters of conduct from my mightiness,

= ie. "me".


If you intend to keep your treasure safe.

But, since I love to live at liberty,

29-32: in claiming in line 29 that he likes to be generous
     (at liberty; Ribner, p. 269), Tamburlaine seems to
     suggest that the Medians may have hope of keeping
     their treasure if they ally with him rather than oppose
     him; but the passage is still ambiguous: wouldn't they
     really find it impossible to remove the Soldan's crown
     from Tamburlaine and his territory, once Tamburlaine
     had possession of it?
         Note the alliteration in line 29.


As easily may you get the Soldan's crown

As any prizes out of my precínct;


For they are friends that help to wean my state,

= nurture or raise, like a child.1

'Till men and kingdoms help to strengthen it,

33: Tamburlaine has clear expectations to grow his still
     modest empire.


And must maintain my life exempt from servitude. −

= subjection to others, slavery.1

But, tell me, madam, is your grace betrothed?


Zeno.  I am − my lord − for so you do import.

= ie. "for so you suggest - that you are a lord"; Zenocrate
     hesitates, uncertain if she should use that title.



Tamb.  I am a lord, for so my deeds shall prove:


And yet a shepherd by my parentage.

But, lady, this fair face and heavenly hue


Must grace his bed that conquers Asiä,

= ie. "the bed of him who"

And means to be a terror to the world,


Measuring the limits of his empery

= empire.

By east and west, as Phoebus doth his course.

= Phoebus is another name for Apollo in his guise as the
     sun god; his course alludes to the path he follows as he
     pulls the sun across the sky with his team of horses.
     Tamburlaine means, of course, that he expects his empire
     to grow as large as the area of land the sun shines on in
     a day.


Lie here ye weeds that I disdain to wear!

= "here lie your clothes (weeds)", referring to the princely
     and dandyish outfits in the captives' baggage.

This complete armour and this curtle-axe

47: complete armour = possible allusion to the "whole
     armour of God" mentioned in the New Testament's
     Ephesians 6:13? Marlowe's exact phrase does not seem
     to appear in 16th century Bibles, but became part of the
     title of a well-known 17th century book, Christian in
     Complete Armour
, a collection of sermons on the later
     verses of Ephesians 6, written by the minister William
         curtle-axe = not an axe, but a short, curved sword.7


Are adjuncts more beseeming Tamburlaine.

And, madam, whatsoever you esteem

= think.


Of this success and loss unvaluëd,

= event, ie. her capture.1  = invaluable,7 pronounced un-

Both may invest you Empress of the East;


And these that seem but silly country swains

52: these = here Tamburlaine indicates Techelles and
         silly country swains = lowly or simple country
     bumpkins or shepherds.

May have the leading of so great an host,


As with their weight shall make the mountains quake,

Even as when windy exhalations

= a reference to the trapped vapours that since ancient
     times were believed to be the cause of earthquakes.


Fighting for passage, tilt within the earth.

= joust, as knights at a tournament would do.


Tech.  As princely lions, when they rouse themselves,

58-60: Techelles' metaphor is reminiscent of the extended

Stretching their paws, and threatening herds of beasts,

     similes involving predators and prey employed by


So in his armour looketh Tamburlaine.

     Homer in the Iliad and the Odyssey.

Methinks I see kings kneeling at his feet,


And he with frowning brows and fiery looks,

Spurning their crowns from off their captive heads.

= kicking.


Usum.  And making thee and me, Techelles, kings,


That even to death will follow Tamburlaine.

= even is usually, as here, pronounced as a one-syllable
     word for purposes of meter.


Tamb.  Nobly resolved, sweet friends and followers!

= determined.

These lords perhaps do scorn our estimates,

= worthiness.


And think we prattle with distempered spirits;

= mad or deranged.

But since they measure our deserts so mean,

71: "but since our guests rate us to be of so little worth"
     (deserts = deservings).


That in conceit bear empires on our spears,

= "who in our imaginations".

Affecting thoughts coequal with the clouds,

73: "with dreams that reach as high as the clouds".


They shall be kept our forcèd followers,

Till with their eyes they view us emperors.


Zeno.  The gods, defenders of the innocent,


Will never prosper your intended drifts,

78: prosper = interesting but not unknown transitive use. 
     drifts = plans.

That thus oppress poor friendless passengers.

= travellers.


Therefore at least admit us liberty,

Even as thou hopest to be eternized,

= made famous forever.1


By living Asia's mighty Emperor.


Agyd.  I hope our ladies' treasure and our own

May serve for ransom to our liberties:


Return our mules and empty camels back,

That we may travel into Syria,


Where her betrothèd lord Alcidamas,

88: Zenocrate is engaged to the King of Arabia. She had

Expects th' arrival of her highness' person.

previously mentioned, however, that she spent her entire youth in Media, which means she probably has never met the King, and that her betrothal was arranged by her father, the Soldan of Egypt.


Mag.  And wheresoever we repose ourselves,


We will report but well of Tamburlaine.


Tamb.  Disdains Zenocrate to live with me?

Or you, my lords, to be my followers?


Think you I weigh this treasure more than you?

Not all the gold in India's wealthy arms


Shall buy the meanest soldier in my train.

Zenocrate, lovelier than the love of Jove,


Brighter than is the silver Rhodope,

= the Rhodopes are a mountain chain on the border of Thrace and Macedonia; the Perseus Encylopedia mentions the mountains were an ancient source of gold and silver.29

Fairer than whitest snow on Scythian hills, −


Thy person is more worth to Tamburlaine

Than the possession of the Persian crown,


Which gracious stars have promised at my birth.

A hundred Tartars shall attend on thee,


Mounted on steeds swifter than Pegasus;

= the famed winged-horse of Greek myth.

Thy garments shall be made of Median silk,

= in the 6th century A.D., the secret of silk production was
     finally learned in the west when two Persian monks who
     had long lived in China smuggled out the eggs of a
     silkworm in a hollow cane, and delivered them to the
     Byzantine emperor Justinian.8


Enchased with precious jewèls of mine own,

= inlaid or set.1

More rich and valurous than Zenocrate's.

= valuable.1


With milk-white harts upon an ivory sled,

110-2: the image is one of all-encompassing whiteness:

Thou shalt be drawn amidst the frozen pools,

     the albino deer (harts), the ivory sleigh (sled), and the


And scale the icy mountains' lofty tops,

     snow over which it is pulled.

Which with thy beauty will be soon resolved.

= melted.


My martial prizes with five hundred men,

Won on the fifty-headed Volga's waves,

= the Volga is the longest river in Europe, flowing from north-west of Moscow to the Caspian Sea, and hence through Scythia; its fifty-heads allude to its numerous sources.8


Shall we all offer to Zenocrate, −

And then myself to fair Zenocrate.


Tech.  What now! − in love?


Tamb.  Techelles, women must be flatterèd:


But this is she with whom I am in love.


Enter a Soldier.


Sold.  News! news!


Tamb.  How now − what's the matter?


Sold.  A thousand Persian horsemen are at hand,

Sent from the king to overcome us all.


Tamb.  How now, my lords of Egypt, and Zenocrate!

= presumably meaning Agydas and Magnetes, who


How! − must your jewèls be restored again,

     Zenocrate identified as Median Lords in line 12 of this

And I, that triumphed so, be overcome?



How say you, lordings, − is not this your hope?


Agyd.  We hope yourself will willingly restore them.

138: Agydas is diplomatic in his response!


Tamb.  Such hope, such fortune, have the thousand horse.

Soft ye, my lords, and sweet Zenocrate!

= "be silent".1


You must be forcèd from me ere you go.

142: "you will only be able to leave me if I am forced to let
     you go."

A thousand horsemen! − We five hundred foot! −

143: foot-soldiers are never a match for cavalry - and
     Tamburlaine's army is outnumbered two-to-one to boot!


An odds too great for us to stand against.

But are they rich? − and is their armour good?


Sold. Their plumèd helms are wrought with beaten gold,

= worked or finished.


Their swords enamelled, and about their necks

Hang massy chains of gold, down to the waist,

= massive.


In every part exceeding brave and rich.

= splendidly dressed.3


Tamb.  Then shall we fight courageously with them?

Or look you I should play the orator?

153: "or would you rather I try to negotiate a peace with


Tech.  No: cowards and faint-hearted runaways


Look for orations when the foe is near:

Our swords shall play the orator for us.


Usum.  Come! let us meet them at the mountain foot,


And with a sudden and a hot alarum,

= call to arms or battle.2

Drive all their horses headlong down the hill.


Tech.  Come, let us march!


Tamb.  Stay, Techelles! ask a parley first.

= it was a convention of medieval English warfare for opposing sides to send messengers to each other demanding surrender, or presenting conditions to negotiate away their differences, before offering battle.


The Soldiers enter.


Open the mails, yet guard the treasure sure;

= ie. travelling bags or trunks of the captives.3,4


Lay out our golden wedges to the view,

= ingots of gold.1 During this speech, Tamburlaine's

That their reflections may amaze the Persians;

     soldiers spread the jewels and precious metals, taken


And look we friendly on them when they come;

     from the luggage of their captives, over the stage.

But if they offer word or violence,


We'll fight five hundred men-at-arms to one,

174: "I would fight against odds of 500-to-1".

Before we part with our possessiön.


And ’gainst the general we will lift our swords,

And either lance his greedy thirsting throat,


Or take him prisoner, and his chain shall serve

For manacles, till he be ransomed home.


Tech.  I hear them come; shall we encounter them?


Tamb.  Keep all your standings and not stir a foot,


Myself will bide the danger of the brunt.

184: Tamburlaine will stand at the front of his troops to
     take the first shock of any charge the Persians might


Enter Theridamas and others.


Ther.  Where is this Scythian Tamburlaine?


Tamb. Whom seek'st thou, Persian? − I am Tamburlaine.


Ther.  Tamburlaine! −

A Scythian shepherd so embellishèd

193-4: Theridamas is impressed with the riches surrounding


With nature's pride and richest furniture!

     Tamburlaine, who is supposed to be a mere shepherd.
          furniture = possessions, ie. armour, equipment, etc.1

His looks do menace Heaven and dare the gods:

= Heaven, like many common words containing a medial
(such as even and given) should be pronounced as
     a one-syllable word, with the v elided over - that is,
     essentially omitted.


His fiery eyes are fixed upon the earth,

As if he now devised some stratagem,


Or meant to pierce Avernus' darksome vaults

198-9: allusion to Hercules' twelfth labour, in which he

To pull the triple-headed dog from hell.

descended into Hades and wrestled Cerberus, the vicious three-headed guard-dog of the underworld, into submission, returning with the monster to the surface.
     Avernus is a lake situated at the entrance to Hades, whose vapours are so toxic that birds fall dead if they attempt to fly over it.


Tamb.  Noble and mild this Persian seems to be,


If outward habit judge the inward man.

= bearing or appearance.  = allows one to make a judgment
         cf. Shakespeare's Pericles, Prince of Tyre, Act II, iii:
     "Opinion's but a fool, that makes us scan / The outward
     habit by the inward man." Shakespeare's version seems
     to confusingly reverse the expected order of the inward
and the outward habit.


Tech.  His deep affections make him passionate.

204: "his deep-felt emotions cause him to be agitated or
     unusually expressive of those feelings."


Tamb.  With what a majesty he rears his looks! −

In thee, thou valiant man of Persiä,


I see the folly of thy emperor.

Art thou but captain of a thousand horse,


That by charácters graven in thy brows,

210: the OED suggests that the characters engraved
     (graven) in Tamburlaine's brow here refers to "indelible
     quality" (def. I,1,a); but characters can also refer to
     letters or markings, and, intriguingly, to astrological
     symbols of the planets: see the next note.

And by thy martial face and stout aspéct,

= magnificent or brave.  = there could be, with characters,
     an astrological metaphor here, as aspect can, in addition
     to its modern sense of "countenance" or "appearance",
     refer to the relative positions of the planets in the


Deserv'st to have the leading of a host!

= an army; Tamburlaine is flattering Theridamas.

Forsake thy king, and do but join with me,


And we will triumph over all the world;

I hold the Fates bound fast in iron chains,

= the Fates were three goddesses who determined the
     course and length of human lives. Tamburlaine suggests
     he controls them, rather than the other way around.


And with my hand turn Fortune's wheel about:

= Fortune was a goddess who spun a wheel, which
     arbitrarily raised or lowered people's circumstances
     and states.

And sooner shall the sun fall from his sphere,

= ie. its sphere. Elizabethan drama frequently referenced a
     Ptolemaic view of the universe, in which the sun, moon,
     planets and all the stars were encased in separate 
     concentric spheres that revolved around the earth.


Than Tamburlaine be slain or overcome.

Draw forth thy sword, thou mighty man-at-arms,


Intending but to raze my charmèd skin,

= scratch or cut.1

And Jove himself will stretch his hand from Heaven


To ward the blow and shield me safe from harm.

See how he rains down heaps of gold in showers,


As if he meant to give my soldiers pay!

And as a sure and grounded argument

= evidence.2


That I shall be the monarch of the East,

He sends this Soldan's daughter rich and brave,


To be my Queen and portly Emperèss.

= majestic.2

If thou wilt stay with me, renownèd man,


And lead thy thousand horse with my condúct,

= ie. leadership or management.1

Besides thy share of this Egyptian prize,


Those thousand horse shall sweat with martial spoil

Of conquered kingdoms and of cities sacked;


Both we will walk upon the lofty cliffs,

And Christian merchants that with Russian stems

= merchantmen, trading ships.3  = prows,3 but meaning
     Russian ships, which are different from the Christian
     vessels - not Christian vessels whose prows are
     Russian (Ribner, p. 63).9


Plough up huge furrows in the Caspian sea,

Shall vail to us, as lords of all the lake.

= lower their topsails as a sign of respect.3


Both we will reign as consuls of the earth,

= Tamburlaine hearkens back to the title given to the two
     Romans who together ruled Rome each year. His use of
     this term to apply to both Theridamas and himself is more
     meaningful than if he had said something like "co-rulers".

And mighty kings shall be our senators.

= our senators continues Tamburlaine's comparison to
     ancient Rome.


Jove sometimes maskèd in a shepherd's weed,

= disguised himself.  = outfit; Tamburlaine, an actual
     shepherd, compares himself to a god in disguise.

And by those steps that he hath scaled the Heavens


May we become immortal like the gods.

Join with me now in this my mean estate,

= ie. "yet still humble condition".


(I call it mean because being yet obscure,

The nations far removed admire me not,)

= "which are far away".


And when my name and honour shall be spread

As far as Boreas claps his brazen wings,

247: ie. "as far as Boreas, the god of the north wind,
     blows." The line is adapted from Ovid's Tristia
     (Lamentations), Book III, x, 45: "and though Boreas
     roars and thrashes his wings".6,12


Or fair Boötes sends his cheerful light,

= "the herdsman", a large constellation in the northern sky.13

Then shalt thou be competitor with me,

= partner or associate.5


And sit with Tamburlaine in all his majesty.


Ther.  Not Hermes, prolocutor to the gods,

252: Hermes (the Roman Mercury) was the messenger god.
     prolocutor = spokesman.1

Could use persuasions more pathetical.

253: "could speak more movingly (pathetical)."2


Tamb.  Nor are Apollo's oracles more true,

= an allusion to the Delphic oracle; the Greek Olympian
     god Apollo was famously known to speak through his
     priestess (oracle) at Delphi in central Greece. For a fee,
     the oracle would channel the god and answer questions
     or make predictions, most of which were notoriously
     ambiguous. Note that the word oracle could refer to
     either the priestess herself or the words the oracle spoke.


Than thou shalt find my vaunts substantiäl.

= boasts.  = reliable.1


Tech.  We are his friends, and if the Persian king

= "even if".

Should offer present dukedoms to our state,

259: "should offer to make us dukes".


We think it loss to make exchange for that

We are assured of by our friend's success.


Usum.  And kingdoms at the least we all expect,


Besides the honour in assurèd conquests,

When kings shall crouch unto our conquering swords

= bow down to or cringe before.2


And hosts of soldiers stand amazed at us;

When with their fearful tongues they shall confess,

= frightened.


"These are the men that all the world admires."


Ther.  What strong enchantments tice my yielding soul!

= entice.

These are resolvèd, noble Scythians:


But shall I prove a traitor to my king?


Tamb.  No, but the trusty friend of Tamburlaine.


Ther. Won with thy words, and conquered with thy looks,

I yield myself, my men, and horse to thee,


To be partaker of thy good or ill,

As long as life maintains Theridamas.


Tamb.  Theridamas, my friend, take here my hand,


Which is as much as if I swore by Heaven,

= "as good as".

And called the gods to witness of my vow.


Thus shall my heart be still combined with thine

= always.

Until our bodies turn to elements,

= ie. decompose into their component parts, which were


And both our souls aspire celestial thrones.

     believed to be four elements: fire, air, earth and water.

Techelles and Casane, welcome him!


Tech.  Welcome, renownèd Persian, to us all!


Usum.  Long may Theridamas remain with us!


Tamb.  These are my friends, in whom I more rejoice


Than doth the King of Persia in his crown,

And by the love of Pylades and Orestes,

= Orestes was the son of Agamemnon, the commander
     of the Greek troops during the Trojan War, and his wife
     Clytemnestra. With her husband away at war for ten
     years, Clytemnestra took a new husband, Aegisthus
     (Agamemnon's cousin). Clytemnestra slew Agamemnon
     upon his return from Troy; in vengeance, Orestes killed
     his mother, and his kinsman and best friend Pylades
     murdered Aegisthus (Murray, p. 302-3).14


Whose statues we adore in Scythia,

296: Schelling traces the notion that the Scythians
     honoured Orestes and Pylades to Ovid's Ex Ponto,
     Book III, ii, 95-96.6

Thyself and them shall never part from me


Before I crown you kings in Asiä. −

Make much of them, gentle Theridamas,


And they will never leave thee till the death.


Ther.  Nor thee nor them, thrice noble Tamburlaine,

302: more interesting alliteration in this line.

Shall want my heart to be with gladness pierced,

= "shall find my heart to be lacking".


To do you honour and security.

= ie. "offer you protection".


Tamb.  A thousand thanks, worthy Theridamas.

306: more alliteration with th-, as in line 302.

And now fair madam, and my noble lords,


If you will willingly remain with me

You shall have honours as your merits be;


Or else you shall be forced with slavery.


Agyd.  We yield unto thee, happy Tamburlaine.

= fortunate.


Tamb.  For you then, madam, I am out of doubt.

= ie. "no longer suspicious".